Safe Passage


Boarding an airplane these days can be a traumatic experience. Sure, air travel is cheaper, and more people are flying. But that just means more planes in the sky, and there's only so much room up there. And the longer these planes are in the sky, the more likely it is that something will break. Air travel is getting more dangerous every day, right?

Well, actually, no. A study published in the journal Management Science shows that air travel in the United States is both cheaper and safer than it has ever been.

Arnold Barnett and Mary Higgins, professors at MIT's Sloan School of Management, conclude that airlines made "accelerating gains" in safety in the past decade. Although the number of airline passengers has almost doubled in the last 10 years, their chances of being killed have actually declined.

For passengers on U.S. airlines, the probability per passenger per flight of being killed was 1 in 2.3 million from 1967 to 1976. From 1977 to 1986, it was 1 in 10.6 million. Further, there were 20 major airline disasters in 1967 through 1976, but only 4 major disasters in the following decade.